Courtesy of Kevin Rivioli
A Fordham alumnus has made national news over the past week, but for all the wrong reasons.
Mike Rice, FCRH ’91, was fired as the head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers on April 3 after the release of a video which showed him abusing his players in practice.
Rice pelted players with basketballs, shoved them and berated them with homophobic slurs.
Bryan Smith, a sophomore guard at Fordham, said he thought the video was “crazy.”
“No person, no college athlete, should have to go through that,” he said.
Smith also said he had never played for a coach like Rice and would never have tolerated such actions.
“There’s no way I could go through a whole season with stuff like that,” he said. “I don’t how any of the players did that. It’s crazy.”
Rice attended Fordham from 1987 to 1991 and was a three year starter at guard for the Rams’ basketball team.
He was the team’s captain in 1991 when Fordham went to the NIT and also served as an assistant coach from 1991 to 1994.
In 2010, when he was the head coach at Robert Morris, Rice was a finalist for the Fordham head coaching job but ended up at Rutgers after Fordham decided to hire Tom Pecora.
Frank McLaughlin was Fordham’s Director of Athletics when Rice was a player and coach and when Rice was being considered for the coaching vacancy in 2010.
McLaughlin said that the revelations about Rice’s behavior came as a surprise.
“I’m sick over it because I know a different Mike Rice than the one that’s being seen on television,” McLaughlin told the New York Daily News. “I’ve never seen that side of Mike. I’m really stunned.”
“The Mike Rice that I know is an emotional, fierce competitor but somebody who really cared about people,” he continued. “I’ve stayed in touch with Mike over the years when he was an assistant at St. Joe’s and when he became head coach at Robert Morris. He is a great family man. When he played here at Fordham he was a very team-oriented guy, very emotional. He really brought the rest of the team together. But we never had any trouble with him. Never.”
In December 2012, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti decided to suspend Rice for three games after he reviewed the video of the incident. At the time, Pernetti told Rutgers president Robert Barchi he planned to suspend Rice, but Barchi declined to view the tape. Barchi did not see the tape until ESPN had already aired portions of it, at which point he demanded Rice be fired immediately. Pernetti was forced to resign Friday for his handling of the case, and many people — including Rutgers faculty — have called for Barchi to step down as well.
The turmoil comes at an inopportune time for Rutgers. The university agreed in November to join the Big Ten Conference in the summer of 2014, a move expected to dramatically increase athletic revenues.
Rutgers is also at a crossroads academically, as it is in the process of absorbing the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The merger is expected to cost the school $75 million. The school also plans to take several graduate programs from its Newark and Camden campuses and consolidate them at the New Brunswick campus.
The school also faces a lawsuit brought by Eric Murdock, a former Rutgers assistant coach who claims he was let go after bringing the tape to Pernetti. Murdock is being investigated by the FBI over claims he tried to extort the university.
The revelations about Rice’s behavior have prompted Robert Morris to take a closer look at Rice’s tenure there as well. The school is investigating allegations that there were multiple brawls between players and coaches while Rice was the head coach of the Colonials. Rutgers, meanwhile, is the process of searching for a new coach to replace Rice and help right the ship.